White House Tells Israel: Settlement Construction ‘May Not Be Helpful’
JNS.org – The Trump administration reiterated its belief Thursday that “the existence of [Israeli] settlements is not an impediment to peace,” while warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it might not be “helpful” for the peace process to expand or increase construction.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also noted that President Donald Trump “has not taken an official position on settlement activity,” a matter which Spicer added Trump plans to discuss with Netanyahu at their first official meeting on Feb. 15 in Washington.
The White House statement comes amid a flurry of construction announcements by the Jewish state. After years of facing severe criticism over settlements from President Barack Obama, who repeatedly labeled them as leading “impediments to peace,” in the two weeks since Trump’s inauguration, Israel has announced more than 5,000 new homes are to be built in the West Bank.
Netanyahu went even further Wednesday when he vowed to build the first new settlement in the area in nearly 25 years.
Despite the White House’s warning Thursday — which marked a break from previous Trump administration statements that did not criticize settlements in any way — many in Israel still expect the new president to take a softer stance on settlements than Obama, often pointing to the close ties Ambassador to Israel-designate David Friedman has to the settlement community.